Know Your Rights: Maternity leave

Question

I am pregnant but I have only been working with my employer for a few weeks. Am I entitled to maternity leave?

Answer

If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to maternity leave, regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week. You can also take additional unpaid maternity leave. The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 provide your statutory minimum entitlements in relation to maternity at work, including maternity leave.

You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave. You can also take up to 16 weeks’ additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, you must take at least 2 weeks before the end of the week of your baby’s expected birth and at least 4 weeks after. You can decide how you would like to take the remaining weeks. Generally, employees take 2 weeks before the birth and the remaining weeks after. If you qualify for Maternity Benefit (see below) you must take at least 2 and no more than 16 weeks before the end of the week the baby is due.

Your entitlement to pay and superannuation during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay you if you are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if you have enough PRSI contributions.

However, your contract with your employer could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, you could receive full pay less the amount of your Maternity Benefit.